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“Terrific Experience”

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Mai Dive - Astrolabe Reef Resort
Ranked #1 of 3 Hotels in Ono Island
Certificate of Excellence
Boston
Level Contributor
16 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
“Terrific Experience”
Reviewed April 13, 2011

Ono Island is far from the East Coast of US, it is a long trip, but all the trouble of getting there was well worth it. All arrangements and domestic travel in Fiji were very easy to make with Danielle and all diving-specific questions were promptly answered by Jason.

After our Twin Otter landed at Kadavu “airport” and we got on 1.5 hour boat ride to Ono the real Fiji had begun. The scenery that surrounded us for two weeks was absolutely breathtaking. Being the only guests at Mai Dive for the most of our stay and diving in absolutely pristine waters of Astrolabe Reef without seeing another dive boat in two weeks (except a live-aboard once with three people on board) was the best dive vacation we had in 23 years of diving.

The resort itself is remote, quiet, small but comfortable with total capacity of 8 guests. It is facing east and I made a point of getting up every day before sunrise to observe absolutely incredible sky colors. There are no luxuries, but everything we needed was there. Every morning by the time we finished breakfast our bure was made up with fresh flowers on the bedspread and in the bathroom adding a very nice touch. Mai Dive is barefoot resort, in two weeks we did not wear shoes even once.

Two of us were pretty lucky to be the only guests and that allowed us to experience undivided friendliness of the local staff to the fullest. Resort managers Claudia and Hank who were our only company simply do not have the word “no” in their vocabulary. Food was as fresh as it could be with daily catch for lunch and /or dinner, vegetables from their garden and presentation of the five star restaurants.

Mai Dive has three boats with one more allegedly coming soon. Two of them are rather small and simple, good for two-three divers, and the third is bigger, adequate for 6-8 divers. We were diving from the bigger boat most of the time. Back roll is the way to get in the water, but the exit ladder is the only complaint I have. Who in his right mind would design the dive ladder with round rungs is beyond me. Climbing that ladder with bare feet and full weight of dive gear was so painful that we immediately opted for taking everything off in the water. That made the ladder more tolerable.

As for the diving, this was absolutely the best we ever had. Granted, it was our first real dive time in the Pacific and the area around Ono is absolutely pristine. The area is mostly unexplored since Mai Dive is the only operation that dives there. Visibility was variable between great and not so great. Sharks were present on most dives, mostly white tips and black tips; huge eagle rays once; tuna, turtles were less frequent. The underwater environment is unbelievable; everything is covered in multicolor corals, walls, swim-throughs, bomies. No dive site looks like another. Surface intervals were on wonderful beaches and were long enough to allow for enough rest and long second dive. Sewa was our dive master whose local knowledge of the surroundings above and below the surface was simply amazing.

We went snorkeling with mantas twice. First time was absolutely unreal: one manta of a small airplane size and another a bit smaller were just as curios about us as we were about them. This is their cleaning station in very shallow water and they hang around for quite some time. The second time we did not see any. We did not do any other activities offered by Mai Dive opting for an after-lunch hammock, book and a nap (when there was no lawn mowing).

These two fabulous weeks of staying and diving with Mai Dive have created one question in our minds: how will we get back to Caribbean diving after this?

Room Tip: Just go
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  • Stayed April 2011, traveled as a couple
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2 Thank redberryphoto
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Date | Rating
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  • Italian first
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English first
Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
16 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 27 helpful votes
Reviewed March 27, 2011

We just spent a wonderful 2 wks at Mai Dive and our only regret is that we weren't able to stay longer! I could go on and on about how fantastic Mai dive is (and I will!). The people and service really put it over the top, and the location is amazing, whether you'd like to enjoy some of the world's best scuba diving, or not - even if you aren't a diver there is plenty to do. All in all it was the best vacation of our entire lives and we hope to go back as soon as we can!

Danielle, (in charge of bookings), was able to fit us in despite very short notice on our part for the 2 wk slot we wanted earlier this month. We also spent the following 5 nights at another nearby resort. Danielle was extremely helpful and friendly and answered all our emails immediately and in detail. Mai Dive had a special on, since Feb-Mar is Fiji's "slow" time for tourism, and we were given a discount on top of Mai Dive's already very reasonable rates. There was the option to pay by credit card or bank transfer (not all remote resorts offer payment by credit card). All meals/snacks/unlimited coffee/tea/juice are included and we were even asked about our food preferences so they could develop a menu based on our likes/dislikes.

On arriving at Fiji's international airport in Nadi, we flew to the island of Kadavu and then were picked up for a boat ride of just over 1 hr to the resort on Ono Island. Our domestic airfare was arranged for us, at a discount, by Danielle. Although some reviewers have described the boat ride as a "minus", we found it to be a "plus" for a number of reasons. The ride itself did not take long (although we were blessed with good weather) and was very comfortable; I even had a nap on the way. There are resorts on Kadavu, although they also include boat trips to reach, but if you, like us, are going to be diving and/or snorkelling during your stay (highly recommended!) the initial trip to Ono ends up saving a lot of time on the boat in the long run, since most of the dive sites are much closer to Ono and may only be, for example, 15 min away rather than 1 hr+. If you want to see "the real Fiji" and experience pristine beaches/reefs/forests, or see Fijian village life first-hand, rather than stay in a large resort in a crowded mainstream tourist area, staying on an outer island is well worth the additional travel from Nadi.

For part of our stay there was 1 other couple staying at the resort, and the rest of the time we were the only guests, but even at full capacity they only have room for 8-12 guests, so you get privacy, personalized service, and very small dive groups, 3 things that were very important to us. The resort itself has no neighbours for miles and is on 47 acres featuring a long white sand beach; hiking trails through the forest to a hill-top lookout with incredible views; and a huge organic garden maintained by the owner, Joe, which provides the resort with lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, and traditional Fijian root crops, all of which we enjoyed incorporated into the fantastic, beautifully-presented, restaurant-quality meals. The food also included delicious fresh locally-caught fish and drew from a variety of influences, including local Fijian dishes. You will never go hungry at Mai Dive!

The owners, Joe and his son Jason, who are of Fijian descent, and all their staff, were amazing and made us feel like part of a family. When we left it felt like we were leaving our new best friends. Joe is an excellent story-teller and enjoys answering questions about Fiji's culture and history, and both Joe and Jason have a great sense of humour, great personalities and are very relaxed, open and kind.

The diving was fantastic! There was never another boat in sight and our dive group totalled only 3-4 people. Jason was the ideal dive master with a perfect balance of safety and professionalism, yet with a fun, easy-going and respectful attitude and he really tuned into what we wanted to do on our dives and what our abilities were (by watching us, rather than asking a ton of questions or judging us solely on number of dives, etc). In our experience it is rare to find this kind of dive master. He knew all of the best sites and took us to a variety of spots (one would have an abundance of corals and colourful fish, the next rocky swim-throughs, the next larger marine life such as sharks, turtles, etc), and he worked around our desires and the weather, tides and currents each day. The main boat-man, Kuki, provided smooth steering and knew his way through the reef systems like the back of his hand. There is also a great reef right in front of the resort suitable for both snorkeling and shore dives. The water was very warm, (although never overly hot). We didn't need to wear wetsuits but Mai Dive supplies them if you do want them, as well as a wide selection of sizes of like-new dive/snorkel gear.

We really enjoyed our visit to the small local village of Narikoso, and were welcomed with a touching "meke" (song and dance) by the kindergarten students. Make sure to wear a sulu (Fijian wrap-skirt, worn by both men/women), to bring school supplies for the children, and, if possible, a "sevusevu" (gift) of "yaqona" (Kava root) to present to the village manager (or chief in some cases). It is well worth it to see the smiles on their faces and their pleasure that you took the time to research and respect their culture.

We stayed in the large "beachfront lodge", which features 2 suites which can be seperate or opened to connect together if one books the whole lodge for a family or friends. We were originally booked in a standalone bungalow, but on arriving at the resort we were offered a choice between that or the larger, more private "lodge" suite. There was no one staying in the lodge, so we had no neighbouring guests. Our suite had a heated outdoor shower (hot water is not a given at outer island resorts and it was nice to have, especially after diving), which was enclosed on the sides to provide privacy, yet still enabled views of the near-by mango tree with friendly resident gecko, or the vivid stars and Milky-Way at night. The queen bed was very comfortable and had a mosquito net (very useful in the tropics) and an electric fan which we could position so that it was under the net and provided us with a cool breeze if it was a still and hot night. The great cleaning staff quickly (yet thoroughly) cleaned our suite every day while we were out so as not to bother us, and put fresh flowers in our room and bathroom. The bungalows were made mainly of lovely local wood, with large covered front patios (nice to be able to sit outside when raining, although rain showers were short and did not happen often, but even if the weather hadn't been so good, I still would have had an amazing time). They are more practical than traditional thatched huts and were very nice looking, the photos don't really do them justice. I would say in general the resort is more beautiful in person. We went barefoot during our entire stay (other than the hike), with soft immaculately-maintained grass surrounding the bungalows and common areas and soft sand on the beach. The bungalows are fitted with all the comforts that you can't necessarily expect from similarly-priced remote Fijian resorts, such as private ensuite bathrooms/showers, laundry service, 24-hr electricity and hot water. Internet access and satellite phone in the common area and iPod docks are available (in case those things are important to you), but there is little cell-phone reception (nor did we feel compelled to check our email) which was a welcome relief for us. My stress just melted away.

There is unlimited fresh spring water on tap, filtered from a spring on the property which you can visit for a demonstration of the amazing pump system Joe invented himself.

We also met newly-arrived Hank and Claudia from the Netherlands, who will be providing management support at Mai Dive. They were friendly and eager to help out. They are experienced divers and it was fun looking for Nudibranchs with them.

Fiji is known for it's hospitality and friendly people and Mai Dive provided Fijian hospitality and generousity at its best. If I had the space I would mention each staff member by name, as each and every one of them really went above and beyond to make us feel at home. We loved laughing over Kava drinking sessions with Joe, Joave and the gang ("High tide?" "Io! Tsunami-levu!")

* A final note, we are not the type of people who think that anything is amazing just because it is on a tropical island. We are seasoned travellers and it was my boyfriend's 4th trip to Fiji. We are reviewing the resort itself and not just basing our impressions on how wonderful Fiji is, (although Fiji IS wonderful!)

  • Stayed March 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
7 Thank Team-BatFish
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sydney, Australia
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed March 18, 2011

If you need to rest and have a peaceful time, you should go to Mai Dive!
We had an amazing week there and we were lucky for being the only guests during that period. Because of that we had full attention from the staff, whose kindness made us feel at our own home.
We could enjoy the week with local people who told us about the story and culture in Fiji.
We had the whole ocean and reef barrier to enjoy and the natural landscape impressed us so much.
After all we could really say that we came back home very pleased and ready to restart the daily activities. We thank Mai Dive for providing such a nice stay and unforgettable experience.
The food was also great, specially the fish dishes.
The Bird Island journey was amazing. We also loved the waterfall!
Pacific Sun delayed the flight from Kandavu to Nadi, than we missed our flight back to Australia. So we suggest giving enough time between connections (or maybe a day).
Vinaka Saka
Andi Ana and Ratu Marco

  • Stayed February 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
3 Thank Ana_Marco
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed March 15, 2011

Stayed for a week in the middle of feb this year. Beautiful weather and surrounds coupked with the friendliest staff, most delicious food and absolutely amazing activities all combined to make this the ultimate destination for a pleasure holiday.

  • Stayed February 2011
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank Physicalpariah
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brussels, Belgium
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed March 15, 2011

What an absolutely wonderful place. Although we’ve never stayed in a more naturally beautiful setting, Mai Dive’s main strength is that it successfully differentiates itself with a unique combination of charm and genuine personal attention.

After scouring the internet for the perfect Fiji Island resort, I could not have picked a better location to have proposed to my fiancée! It was the best day of my life, and I owe a part of this to the creativity and kindness of Mai Dive’s owner, Joe. The resort bent over backwards to help provide us with an unforgettable evening.

I proposed to my fiancée on the bank of a deserted coral beach, on the other side of Ono Island. On our way back, we stopped near the impressive Bird Island to enjoy the fiery sunset over the coral blue sea. Back at the resort a beachside table for two had been set up, complete with Champagne, homemade straws placed in fresh coconuts, fresh flowers on the table and arranged in recently cut palm fronds that had been tied around neighboring trees. Every detail was perfect. We took our time eating together and the cook (Sully) and a couple additional staff members eventually setup beside us and began to gently serenade. After dinner, everyone was gathered for a Kava ceremony to celebrate the special day. It was an extraordinary evening in an extraordinary place.

I spent a total of two weeks at the resort, and I’ve never spent time more peaceful and contented. I could go on and on about what we really enjoyed about Mai Dive, but in the end, I would recommend this resort to anyone interested in experiencing untouched natural beauty with the friendliness and comforts of home.

  • Stayed December 2010, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank cbtown
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Oregon
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed March 12, 2011

My wife and were at Mai Dive in December 2009 and had a great time. I had an opportunity to go back myself in January (she couldn,t make it due to work). Sometimes you wonder when you go back a second time somewhere that it won,t be as good as the first time. Well at Mai Dive thats not true, it was as great as the first time. The resort really does deserve all the good reviews it gets. The diving was good, the food was very good with plenty to eat, and excellent hospiality. Jason, Danielle and the staff go out of the way to make it an experience to remember. I realy like the short boat rides to the dive sites and the dive breaks on the nearby beaches. The rooms were clean and comfortable with hot showers. I could go on and on. My wife and I are already talking trying to go back next December .

  • Stayed January 2011, traveled solo
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank Divers12Oregon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ashburton, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
12 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed March 3, 2011

What a place, isolated and remote but for relaxation, superb service and wanting to get away from it all you could not chose a better place.
From getting off the small plane to getting on the boat for a 1.5 hour trip to the island it was obviously going to be different.
The resort is small with only half a dozen huts that are comfortable and well equipped, outside showers make you feel luxurious bathing in the open air.
The food is hotel standard and staff and owners treat you like one of the family. Although we do not dive the other guests said it was one of the worlds best areas for diving. Snorkelling for beginners off the beach is a must.
If you want something different this resort is a must.

  • Stayed February 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank georgeclooney38
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Mai Dive - Astrolabe Reef Resort

Property: Mai Dive - Astrolabe Reef Resort
Address: Fiji
Phone Number:
Location: Fiji > Kadavu Archipelago > Ono Island
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Beverage Selection Free Breakfast Restaurant Room Service
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 3 Hotels in Ono Island
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Hotel Class:3 star — Mai Dive - Astrolabe Reef Resort 3*
Number of rooms: 5
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Remote Adventurous Pristine Fijian Resort on Ono Island in Kadavu Fiji. The closest resort to the Great Astrolabe Reef. All facilities are new and absolute beachfront. Eco Resort with solar power, fresh water spring, vegetables garden & fresh seafood. PADI Certified dive operator & plenty of non dive activities. Maximum of 14 guests, as this is a low key relaxed family run resort. Fantastic facilities and even better food with full board included - come and stay with us a while..... ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Mai Dive - Astrolabe Reef Hotel Kadavu Island
Mai Dive - Astrolabe Reef Resort Fiji/Ono Island

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